Ramsgate manager Matt Longhurst has tipped new signing Bradley Ryan to return to the big time after the teenager asked to leave Chelsea.
Midfielder Ryan only joined the Premier League club from Welling in September, and was in their under-23 squad, but walked away from a two-year contract and is back in non-league football.
He made his Rams debut as a late substitute in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Three Bridges and Longhurst fully expects the former Maidstone academy player to go far.
“Every single person in the stadium was on their feet watching this kid play,” said the Rams boss, who takes his team to Hastings for a top-of-the-table Isthmian South East game this weekend.
“He can do things with a football that most of us can only dream of.
“He’s just left Chelsea and it was his decision to walk out.
“Who walks out on Chelsea at 18-years-old?
“That’s a massive decision to make but he wasn’t enjoying it, he wasn’t getting enough game time and he’s put his love of football over the fact he was at a Premier League club.
“The way he plays, the way he runs and the way he carries himself, he’s so much like Alfie May.
“I had Alfie at 18 and they’re almost identical, on and off the pitch.
"I’d imagine Alfie would have done the same as Bradley if he’d been at Chelsea at that age because he’s one who just loves playing football.
“I spoke to Bradley’s agent after the game on Saturday and he said he’d not heard the kid this excited about football for two or three years, so we seem to have captivated him.
“He’s got a serious opportunity to play at whatever level he wants - he’s that good.
“We aren’t going to keep him long-term - he’s way too good for this level.
“It might just be that he needs 18 months here in the right environment to be ready for a Football League first team and then if he plays 20 games at that level he’ll end up in the Premier League, if he wants to.
“He’s got to apply himself, turn up on time, do everything properly - and we can instil that into him.
“If he does all that and has a good 18 months here, he can go wherever he wants - 100 million per cent.”
Longhurst also has high hopes for his other new signing, striker Ollie Bate, who’s joined from Erith & Belvedere.
Also 18, he signed for the Deres after leaving Millwall, where he was unlucky to miss out on a pro deal after six years with the club.
“I watched him in pre-season at Erith & Belvedere and I know the owners really well so we’ve kept tabs on him,” said Longhurst.
“We wanted first dibs and from speaking to the kid’s agent, we knew he was keen to come.
“He knows Bradley and a few of the other lads and he’s another one who’s got a real chance. He reminds me of Carlos Tevez in the way he plays.”
Third-placed Ramsgate are four points off top spot after goals from Josh Ajayi and Callum Peck against Three Bridges.
Ajayi missed a second-half penalty while the hosts finished with 10 men after Lee Prescott was sent off.
“It wasn’t vintage but, without being disrespectful to Three Bridges, it didn’t need to be,” said Longhurst.
“We played very well for 25 minutes, went 1-0 up and I think the players got in that mindset where it was almost too easy and when that happens, it’s difficult to keep the intensity.
“We spoke about that at half-time, we said they’d get five long throws and five free-kicks or corners, so that’s 10 balls coming into our box that are potentially dangerous, so we needed to keep our attitude and our application at the right levels.
“In fairness, we scored 10 minutes after half-time and that took took the sting out of Three Bridges."
Ramsgate lead Hastings on goal difference going into Saturday’s game at the Pilot Field.
Longhurst’s side beat the U’s at the start of the season and can’t wait for the return.
He said: “I’ve told the players I think there’ll be 1,100 or 1,200 people there - it will be brilliant to play in front of a crowd that size at this level.
“They’re a massive club and a very good side who’ve been building for five or six years, and we’re competing with them after three months.
“Everyone says it’s a tough game, are you worried? It’s Hastings, not Barcelona.
“It’s another game of football and our players can’t wait.
“We’ll go there and try to win the game.
“You’d far rather be involved in games like this than a mid-table game that means nothing.”